Ifrad Islam ’10 has been embracing the Worcester scene for years. He recently spoke with Emilee Cocuzzo ’18, MBA ’19, to explain why he loves living in the city so much.
When did you graduate and what did you do at Clark?
I graduated in 2010, and studied economics and management for my bachelor’s degree at Clark, then a few years later got my master’s elsewhere. The funny thing is that I mostly focused on nonacademic stuff at Clark, such as student government, new student orientation, and working at the admissions office. All those activities helped me in life after college just as much as what I learned in the classroom.
What is your favorite memory of Clark?
What comes to mind most often is working on campus life issues and programs in the student leadership office. I remember hanging out for hours on the third floor of the University Center. Also, spending time at the many culturally rich establishments in and around the Main South neighborhood.
Where are you now? What have you been up to?
I live in Worcester with my wife and two dogs. Since college, I have built a career in the world of health care economics. In short, I lead a team of consultants at Optum, analyzing data about how people use medical services, how these services are paid for, and how we can find efficiencies in the way we provide health care and medications. I have worked in the field for nine years.
I volunteer with Easterseals and a couple of other organizations focused on youth leadership and higher education, so a lot of my family’s time is dedicated to those organizations.
What is your favorite thing to do in Worcester — and what’s your favorite place to eat?
I am one of the very few GOLD [Graduates of the Last Decade] alumni that live in the Worcester area, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. We love going to stART on the Street, checking out events at the repurposed Sprinkler Factory, meeting friends at breweries like Greater Good or 3Cross, going for a run around Lake Park or Coes Pond, and hanging out at used bookstores like Annie’s or Bedlam. We don’t have ONE favorite place to eat in Worcester! My wife and I will often get homemade pupusas from an El Salvadorian joint called Fuente De Vida, spicy Chinese food from Red Pepper, way too much pasta from Mare E Monti, or mind-blowing cupcakes from Queen’s Cups.
Worcester is a city with an exceptionally high quality of life (for both humans and dogs) and I strongly believe it is one of the most affordable, accessible and authentic cities on the East Coast that is experiencing extraordinary growth.
What about hobbies? Do you have any new or developing ones?
I’ve been running, playing some racquetball, hiking. I do some writing as well, mostly on health care policy and trends. And cooking — I am a huge fan of Thai food, but for the longest time, I could never cook any Thai dishes. Over the last few months, I have practiced, failed many times, and now I have become pretty good at it.
Do you have any ‘adulting’ tips or advice you can share with your fellow Clarkies?
I would encourage any new grads to quickly get some financial education, such as how to build credit, manage money and expenses, find ways to save, and plan for your future.
It also helps to be introspective about your goals and what types of activities bring you happiness. If you have family and friends who support you, spend a lot of time with them.
Also: Recognize that your physical and mental health are your highest priorities, every day, no matter what kind of external pressures you feel through a job, family demands, social media, and so on.
Do you have any career advice for recent Clark graduates?
For anyone starting off, you should probably cast a wide net. Apply to as many jobs as possible, including in smaller cities, because they tend to have high employment demand but don’t always have a strong supply of skilled labor.
Also, if you do not have a lot of job experience, I would read and absorb the news, history, and current events. This can help you have intelligent and insightful interviews even if you don’t have extensive work experience.
Finally, whether you have landed a job or not, I would dive into volunteer activities with any organizations that align with your values. I think this drives purpose and builds a network. Not to mention, it may be hard to adjust to life after college; all of a sudden, you may find yourself with hours with nothing to do. Volunteering can help many people and organizations, including the volunteer.
How do you stay involved with the Clark community?
I serve as a board member for the M.S. in Business Analytics program. Sometimes that includes classroom presentations, connecting with students, helping with mock interviews and job skills, and running business analytics case simulations. I also have attended job fairs in the past and panels focused on peer advice.
Also, every few months, I make it a point to go for a walk through campus with my wife and dogs, especially on a nice day. This is partly out of curiosity to see what is changing, and partly to stay connected to the physical campus. It’s a lot of fun.
Will you be attending your 10–year reunion? How do you feel about celebrating this milestone?
Yes and yes! One reason I am excited is that I expect a few of my classmates to come back. As I said, I am one of the only people from my class who live in the Worcester area; a lot of my classmates live all over the East Coast. I look forward to having them back for a weekend!